Disclaimer: This never appeared in either of the shows, so how could they be mine?

"It's Buffy."

Of course it was. Whatever it was- life, home, love, salvation, sun, moon, stars- it had always been Buffy.

It had been two hundred and fifty years since he had woken up with his last hangover. Since that day his body had never felt the need to expel the contents of his stomach. Now blood and acid decorated the Hyperion's floor. He was sure Angelus would have complimented the neatness and artistry of the splash of vomit, but Angelus was howling inside his head like an animal. He might not have meant to Bind himself to Buffy, but they were mated all the same. From his knees, Angel surveyed the tile. He'd never taken time to notice the little taupe squares and diamonds. He wondered if anyone had since they'd been grouted into place. So many people had walked here- clients, minor Hollywood professionals, demons and now Willow- had anyone ever really looked at these tiles?

How had Willow gotten in anyway? Right, they'd left the door unlocked in their rush to save Cordy. He laughed, his hands pressing on his abdomen to keep his insides from spilling onto the floor.

Of course, in the universe's biggest joke that he was unfortunately forced to call his life, Cordy was portal-napped just in time for him to miss this huge event. He was pretty sure he was laughing again at the thought of Buffy dying as some kind of spectator occasion, but he couldn't be sure. There seemed to be some sort of mind-body disconnect. He thought maybe he could hear Cordy asking Willow something, their voices blending to a bareness of sounds and syllables. It was possible that the new girl- what was her name again? Right, Fred. Things felt very muddy at the moment- was asking what was going on. Fred hadn't screamed when she saw his face, but Buffy had. Did that mean that he was Fred's and not Buffy's? No, not when his self screamed for Buffy, not when he felt like he was limbless, suspended in fluid without her there. Coming back from Pylea he had marveled at how used to the sun he had become in the few days he had been there that he now felt barren without its presence. Now it became obvious that it was the absence of Buffy that made everything seem so dark. She had brought all types of sun into his life. He thought of the last time he had seen the sun, that magical day with Buffy. The day he had given back in exchange for her life. He had thought it would have bought more time. The sacrifice was supposed to give her enough time to pursue her dreams,to married and have children if she had wanted. He realized with a sudden jolt that there would be no babies who wrinkled their noses in that fingerprint-distinctive way, no children with hazel-green eyes that he couldn't have painted exactly right if he had wanted to. In fifty or a hundred years, there would be no one to remember her anymore as a kindly grandmother or even as a name on the family tree. She had somehow managed to be everything to him and yet leave nothing behind. But he didn't know that. Maybe there was something he didn't know about because he hadn't been there.

He looked up at Willow. "How?" He croaked, feeling drowned, senses filled with murky water. "When?"

She told him about Buffy's last fight. He saw her in his mind's eye: straight and beautiful and brave, diving to save the people and trees and bugs and most especially her sister.

"There's nothing you could have done," Willow said quietly, "Even if you had been there."

Inwardly he disagreed. In an instant he knew that he would have taken some of Dawn's blood and given himself to the portal. He felt as if his life was a time line that someone might buy at a joke shop in Hell, (Here's where his father beat him! Here's where he was turned! Here's where he ate rats!) one that made sure that he wouldn't be able to save her when it mattered.

Somehow during Willow's speech and the one in his mind, he moved upstairs to his room. Angelus had taken his willing hands and destroyed everything there. He sat on the floor staring at the room that Buffy had never seen, that he had never shared with her. He felt as if he had cleaved himself apart be leaving her; as if he had erased an essential part when he turned away and closeted himself in the fog.

He sat and sketched her a million times. The drawings decorated the floor around him like a maudlin mosaic. They overlapped each other to reveal only an eye or a dimple or a finger from each.

"Okay, my legs are hideous. Why are you making them look like Marilyn Monroe's?"

"You have beautiful legs," Angel answered without looking up, "And you're not real."

"True," the figure seated beside him conceded, "I'm just a Buffy manifestation from your mind. But I'm just like you remember the real Buffy being."

"Obviously not because the real Buffy is dead."

"But that's not how you remember her."

"Do you want to know what really makes you different from the true Buffy? Buffy would be in heaven right now, not here talking to me. She earned that chance to rest. I know she's just a girl, she has -had her faults but she was so strong. The power was shoved into her and she didn't turn away from it. She was a good leader and a good friend and SHE DID NOT DESERVE THIS! She should have died of old age surrounded by family, or if she couldn't have that she should have gotten to rest once she died. But knowing the goddamn Powers, she's in hell and the portal's closed and I can't save her."

The Buffy manifestation looked over at him from where she was painting her toenails. "Do you really think the Powers are that bad?"

"Of course. You're in my head, you should know all this. They screwed up my life, they screwed up Buffy's until they sound like soap operas. They're supposed to be all powerful and they couldn't save her. They couldn't even make sure that she would finally get some peace."

"Maybe they did," imaginary Buffy commented mildly, "They do intervene sometimes. Remember Whistler? Maybe the real me is at peace."

"Yes," he breathed, knowing it to be true deep in his bones where he held his pain and love tightly coiled. He no longer felt Buffy on this plane, but neither did he feel her pain in another. He finally looked up at her. "Thank you."

"I'm you, so you're really thanking yourself," she reminded him, a small grin lapping at the corner of her mouth, "You knew all along. I just had to get you to stop being cryptic-avoido-guy." she fanned her toenails one last time and then faded away.

Angel was left alone with a room full of destroyed furniture and a sea of pictures. He felt a peculiar kind of strength in himself and knew it to be from Buffy. He straightened his crooked spine. He would have to make sure that people remembered her. As long as she existed, ever vampire staked or demon killed, every battle fought or apocalypse averted would be in her name. Ave Buffy, full of grace. The lord is with thee.

He remembered Willow saying something about the funeral. "Probably Thursday or Friday afternoon," she had told him tiredly. He was glad that she would be buried in the sunlight. If she had to spend most of her time in darkness, he was glad she would be buried in the light. It was alright that he could not attend. Funerals were more for the living than the dead. They were a way of saying goodbye and he wasn't saying goodbye to Buffy. He had forever to make sure that his soul was balanced with his sins. He could not rest until he had made sure that he would meet Buffy again. He had been right: there was no place like home. It just wasn't here anymore. Home was waiting for him on the other side of death.